The New Museum, New York by Sejima + Nishizawa / SANAA
The New Museum, founded in 1977 by former Whitney Curator, Marcia Tucker, may be one of the most provocative and interesting buildings going up in Manhattan currently. The building is a 7 story, 60,000 square foot homage to the newest of new art designed by Sejima + Nishizawa. On Sunday last week, I happened upon this building with another architect friend of mine, and I was blown away. My friend calls it a bunch of hat boxes stacked randomly together. I see it as a new take on German expressionism akin to Hans Scharoun. Scharoun’s work is characterized by a need to express the human functions happening within a building, and I sense this with Sejima + Nishizawa. It seems they took a look at the program and said “OK. We need a small white box this tall by this wide for this function. We need a big white box this tall…”. It seems that the form expresses exactly how much space was needed by any programatic requirement. Also, the white box on the outside of the building is the world’s biggest billboard for contemporary art museums which are not much more than clean white boxes on the inside. This expression of whiteness clearly borrows from Scharoun’s tenet.
what the New Museum currently looks like
On a more formally superficial point of view, I’m jealous of New York having this building. I put this building on par with one proposed in San Francisco about a decade ago by Rem Koolhaas and OMA for Prada. Both buildings are of a similar size and shape. Both are modest yet bold in their use of scale and extremely beautiful. One gets built, the other doesn’t. Why? There was a battle in San Francisco, and the traditionalist got together with the Luddites and the Nob Hill geezers to ruin the opportunity for a whole new category of tourist (the ones looking for the coolest of contemporary architecture- Think Bilbao) from wanting to come to San Francisco which places my fair city in the world’s collective unconscious somewhere between Little Rock, Arkansas and the Stone Age. Check out one of John King’s articles to get the gist of this modest proposal I call architecture. To be fair, San Francisco is not New York, so maybe buildings like this are not meant to be here.
To learn more about The New Museum, check out these resources: